THE COURT DECLARES A VERDICT IN FAVOR OF A DESERTER

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An unprecedented fact: the court acknowledges illegal verdict of the enlistment office regarding a draftee. The military is likely to appeal the court decision.

The court was considering a complaint lodged by draftee Oleg Lipatov against the district enlistment office, which had acknowledged him eligible for military service and dispatched him to the army. The young man does not wish to fulfill his civic duty, since he considers himself to be an adherent to the Witnesses of Iegova learning. For this very reason, he asked that actions of the enlistment office be acknowledged illegal and he be given the option of alternate civic service, as is written in the Part 3 of the Article 59 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The law “On the Alternate Civic Service” has not been adopted so far. However, the Iegovist does not worry about it: the absence of the legal act cannot deprive him of the constitutional right. Judge A. Petrov had to clear up the entangled situation.

“My beliefs are based on the Bible,” repeated Mr. Lipatov, citing the holy book, which he read for the first time in 1998. He does not want to serve in the army, since he will have to use weapons there, which contradicts his religious beliefs. Since childhood, Oleg was “considered” to be of the Orthodox belief, but now “he has adopted a different belief,” perhaps because Christianity is not opposed to defending the Fatherland? He was baptized (for the second time) as a Witness of Iegova. Incidentally, in Chuvashia, Iegovists have not been registered as a religious association up to now.

The army of Mr. Lipatov’s defenders – they called themselves co-believers (including a US citizen) – who came to help him, constantly referred to the freedom of conscience, the universal declaration of human rights, decisions of the Supreme and Constitutional courts of the Russian Federation, the European Court for Human Rights, etc. According to these people, whose beliefs are based on the Bible, it was his faith that turned Oleg Lipatov from a hooligan into almost an winged angel. He quit smoking and drinking, and ended his casual relations with women. In short, a sweepingly change took place in his way of life.

(…)The center of the Iegovist church is situated in Brooklyn (US). US saints seem to be deeply indifferent to the defense capability of the Russian fatherland. A spokesperson for the enlistment office thought that the true Christian would never prove his beliefs in court and mention the name of God in vain for one’s personal purposes. The officer: “Mr. Lipatov does not enjoy a draft delay, he is healthy and can be summoned to serve in the army.” Why wasn’t he given an alternate service? Firstly, this kind of service does not yet exist in Russia. Secondly, Mr. Lipatov had failed to provide motivation for his decision at the draft board. He cannot decided whether he rejects the service in the army on religious or personal beliefs. Furthermore, Oleg Lipatov had not provided a single valid reason from his own life that would prevent him from being drafted.

A representative of the enlistment office proposed the following way out: “We may apply to the headquarters of the Privolzhskii Military District with a request that Mr. Lipatov be sent to a unit where the service is not connected with carrying arms… He may even reject to take an oath of allegiance and he will be assigned to economic work.” The decision of the enlistment office may be changed and he may not be assigned to units of the special forces. The lieutenant colonel also referred to the Constitution the Article 55 stating: “rights and freedoms may be limited in order to ensure the defense capability of the country.” On the whole, Lipatov’s behavior very much resembled dodging from military service.

On hearing both parties, Judge A. Petrov made a truly Solomon-like decision: to condemn the actions of the enlistment office of the Kalinin District of Cheboksary in reference to Mr. Lipatov as illegal and give the enlistment office the task of replacing military service with the alternate civic service. Earlier, the courts of Cheboksary had canceled the verdicts of the enlistment offices and given the believers a delay until the corresponding law is adopted. For all appearances, the military will appeal the decision of the Kalinin District Court, otherwise queues of believing (and those whose faith is not very firm) draftees will crowd before enlistment offices.

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